I Say Couch, You Say Chaise…

It’s funny how much we can tell about a person from their word choices for everyday items. Culture, upbringing, education. We get a totally different image about a person who calls a dress a frock vs. one who says gown.

We can use this technique to build deeper characters as well. It’s a fun game that’s sort of like word association.
    1. Pick an everyday item. Let’s use a pair of pants.
    2. Ask yourself how each of your characters would refer to that item, and write down the responses.

    3. Do the choices give better insight into your characters? Help with dialogue?
    Here's how it might play out with the pants example:

    Britches: Southern, rural, informal
    Trousers: More proper, possibly a business background.
    Fatigues: Army, military, lots of space for weapons and easy to run in
    Knickers: English, possibly a historical timeframe
    Dungarees: Rugged, adventurous, not as tight-laced as military
    Buckskins: Rural, back-to-nature, stealthy
    What's awesome is that I have characters who match some of these categories, and they really would use that specific word.

    Give it a try!


    1. Good point! Like the whole soda-pop-soda pop-cola thing. What you say depends on where you were raised.

      1. Long live bubblers! (That's Wisconsin-speak for drinking fountains.)

    2. I think it makes a huge difference in how a character comes across. But I'd warn you off using the word "knickers" as they are women's underwear in England. :)

      1. Haha, well that might definitely say something about a character. If they're wearing ladies' undies as pants. ;) And yes, knickerbockers is a good choice.

    3. Ooh, but it just occurred to me that knickerbockers would be a word that would work. Another colloquial expression.

    4. How about cheers?

      It can mean thanks or to your good health :)

      Which reminds me, I'm not sure if I've said thanks for my Olympic Blog Relay prize... so CHEERS :)

    5. That's a useful exercise in diving into personalities of our characters. I remember my mom always saying supper when I was a kid, and now it sounds odd to me. I have to say dinner.

    6. Oh yes... Words and how we use them colloquially can characterise as swiftly as anything! What about pantaloons? Now there's a word!! I shall follow your blog with interest.

    7. What a fascinating idea! I love it!

    8. My parents say britches! haha. And if you read LotR, that's what Tolkien calls pants. I love that you pointed this out, I am far more conscious of how my characters sound, especially since my boyfriend is a Linguist and he's always telling me how different words are pronounced in different languages. lol.